Justia Virginia Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court holding that a settlement agreement between Plaintiff and her underinsured motorist carrier did not entitle the underinsured defendant (Defendant) to a statutory reduction of the jury verdict rendered against her pursuant to the offset provision of Va. Code 8.01-35.1, holding that the tortfeasor remains primarily responsible for fully compensating the plaintiff for the injury the tortfeasor has caused. Plaintiff sustained injuries when her vehicle was struck by Defendant's vehicle. Plaintiff sued Defendant, asking for compensatory and punitive damages. Prior to trial, Plaintiff settled her underinsured motorist (UIM) claims against her insurance provider. The jury returned a verdict awarding Plaintiff damages against Defendant. Defendant moved to reduce the verdict against her because of the amount paid to Plaintiff by Plaintiff's insurer. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in refusing to reduce the judgment Plaintiff obtained against Defendant by the amount of the proceeds Plaintiff received from her UIM policy. View "Llewellyn v. White" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment dismissing Bragg Hill Corporation's claims against the City of Fredericksburg, holding that the rezoning of property by a city ordinance upon annexation of the property by the city was not void ab initio and did not violate the procedural due process rights of Bragg Hill, the property owner. In the early 1970s the Spotsylvania Planning Commission approved a master plan submitted by Bragg Hill. Bragg Hill built several sections of a townhouse project on the property. The City of Fredericksburg later annexed Bragg Hill's property. The annexed property was zoned into the City's R-1 zoning classification, which did not permit the development of townhouses. Bragg Hill unsuccessfully requested a determination that it had a vested right to develop the property zoned R-1 according to the master plan. The property was later rezoned to an R-2 zoning classification. Bragg Hill then brought this action against the City. The circuit court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the change in the zoning of the property upon annexation was authorized; (2) the issue of whether Bragg Hill had a vested right was previously decided; and (3) Bragg Hill was not deprived of any property interest as a result of the rezoning, and its procedural due process rights were not violated. View "Bragg Hill Corp. v. City of Fredericksburg" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against a church deacon and his wife, the local church, and the national denomination claiming that the local church and the national denomination (collectively, the church defendants) had known of a prior sexual-abuse allegation against the deacon and had done nothing to warn or protect her, holding that Plaintiff stated legally viable claims of negligence and respondent superior against the church defendants. The church deacon was convicted of sexually abusing minors over the span over several years and received two life sentences. Plaintiff, one of the victims, filed this suit alleging several claims. The circuit court granted the church defendants' demurrers and dismissed Plaintiff's complaint with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the circuit court (1) erred in dismissing Plaintiff's claim asserting negligence based upon a special relationship between her and the church defendants and erred in dismissing Plaintiff's respondent superior claim; (2) properly dismissed Plaintiff's claims for negligent hiring, retention, and supervision, as well as Plaintiff's claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress as a stand-alone tort; and (3) properly dismissed Plaintiff's claims for punitive damages. View "A.H. v. Church of God in Christ" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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In this dispute over what percentage of shares in a company the three children (Children) of Peter Knop (Father) owned the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court ruling that despite Father's intention to make gifts of certified stock to the children, the gifts were never effectually made under Virginia law and that the children were not entitled to relief under the doctrine of equitable estoppel. The family company in this case owned 1,000 acres of land. The shares in the company were owned by Father and Children. The trial court concluded that although Father stated his intention to make gifts of stock to Children for estate planning purposes, those gifts were never effectually made because they were never delivered to Children in the manner required by law. The trial court further denied Children relief under equitable estoppel principles. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because the shares were never delivered to Children, the gifts were not completed; and (2) the record supported the trial court's conclusion that Children were not entitled to relief on their equitable estoppel claim. View "Knop v. Knop" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for violating Va. Code 18.2-374.3(C) by using a computer for the purpose of soliciting a minor, holding that the trial court and the court of appeals did not err in concluding that the statute did not violate Defendant's freedom of speech or his due process rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. After the jury convicted Defendant he moved for a new trial, claiming that the statute was unconstitutionally vague in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and overbroad in violation of the First Amendment. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no merit in Defendant's vagueness or overbreadth challenges to section 18.2-374.3(C). View "Stoltz v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court denying Appellant's motion to set aside a jury verdict in favor of Appellee, holding that the circuit court erred in finding that Appellant waived its statute of limitations argument when it did not refile a plea in bar after Appellee filed a second amended complaint. In moving to set aside the verdict Appellant argued that the circuit court erred when it denied Appellant's proposed jury instructions relating to the statute of limitations defense. The circuit court denied Appellant's motion, admitting that it erred in ruling that it had previously decided Appellant's plea in bar of the statute of limitations but then concluding that Appellant waived its statute of limitations argument when it did not refile a plea in bar after Appellee filed a second amended complaint. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that the circuit court erred in not permitting Appellant to present its statute of limitations defense to the jury. View "Ferguson Enterprises, Inc. v. F.H. Furr Plumbing" on Justia Law

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In this equitable contribution action brought by Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company (collectively, Nationwide) against Erie Insurance Exchange the Supreme Court vacated the final judgment of the circuit court granting Erie's demurrer and dismissing Nationwide's claim for equitable contribution, holding that the circuit court erred as a matter of law. In Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance v. Erie Insurance Exchange, 293 Va. 331 (Nationwide I), the Supreme Court resolved an insurance coverage dispute between Nationwide and Erie. Thereafter, Nationwide brought this action seeking reimbursement for Erie's share of a monetary settlement that Nationwide had paid to a tort claimant while the case was on appeal. The circuit court sustained Erie's demurrer to the claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court should have denied Erie's demurrer to the claim of equitable contribution based upon the coverage allocation that the Court had determined in Nationwide I. The Court remanded the case to the circuit court to enter an order awarding contribution to Nationwide consistent with the Court's allocation of coverage liability in Nationwide I and with the views expressed in this opinion. View "Nationwide Mut. Fire Insurance Co. v. Erie Insurance Exchange" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court dismissing trespass and nuisance claims as time-barred and construing the provisions of express easements, holding that the circuit court erred in granting Defendants' plea in bar as to Plaintiff's trespass and nuisance claims based on the statute of limitations and erred in construing some provisions of express easements. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants, her neighbors, alleging that Defendants installed an underground sprinkler system that caused damaging encroachments of water to her property and that Defendants violated her rights under two express easements. The circuit court held that the trespass and nuisance claims were barred by the five-year statute limitations and construed the easements, entering an order in accordance with its rulings. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court erroneously granted Defendants' plea in bar on the basis of improper factual findings; (2) the circuit court erred by construing some terms in the express easements but did not err by construing others; and (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by denying Plaintiff's petition for a rule to show cause. View "Robinson v. Nordquist" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court upholding Augusta County's tax assessments against McKee Foods Corporation for the years 2011 through 2014 and remanded the matter for a new trial, holding that the assessments were not entitled to a presumption of validity. McKee filed an application for relief from erroneous assessment for real property taxes, alleging that the assessments were above the property's fair market value, were not uniform in application, and were otherwise invalid or illegal. After a trial, the circuit court upheld the assessments. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because the appraiser did not properly use any of the three generally accepted approaches to valuation the Supreme Court erred in applying the presumption of validity to his 2011 assessment; (2) the 2012 and 2013 assessments were based on the same improper methodology and were not entitled to the presumption of correctness; and (3) the 2014 assessment was not entitled to a presumption of validity because it was based on a single approach to the determination of market value. View "McKee Foods Corp. v. County of Augusta" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the determination of the Workers' Compensation Commission that Carnell Carrington was not entitled to temporary benefits for a total disability caused by kidney failure unrelated to his employment, holding that the court of appeals did not err. At the time he began working for his employer in 1992, Carrington had a preexisting kidney job. In 2006, Carrignton received a kidney transplant but returned to work without restrictions. In 2014, Carrington's kidney condition deteriorated severely, rendering him totally disabled from performing any work. The Commission concluded that Carrington was not entitled to continuing temporary total-disability benefits because neither his preexisting kidney disease nor his kidney failure had any connection to his employment. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the two-causes rule articulated in Bergmann v. L & W Drywall, 222 Va. 30 (1981), did not apply to the facts of this case. View "Carrington v. Aquatic Co." on Justia Law